Virtual Career – A Decade of Lessons

Ann Kristine_blog_Virtual Career: A Decade of Lessons

I took one last look, then I walked away, never looking back.

It was February 14, 2014, Friday. Valentine’s Day.

The weight of my things were getting heavier as I took my first few steps away from the building. 

I figured I would walk two hundred or more meters to the terminal station.

I expected long lines there because it’s Friday, Valentine’s Day, and payday weekend.

I also knew that traffic would be my company for the next two hours.

But I didn’t care.

In this situation, you are expected to cry.

It felt heavy on the chest, alright.

Yet there was a feeling of gladness and excitement for the future that was still unknown.

For a fleeting moment, everything – and everyone – didn’t matter.

I was free.

You probably didn’t know this. But 2 years prior to resigning from work, I had a part-time online gig that I lost on Valentine’s Day. From heartbreak to making it big – at least in my own way.

This isn’t your typical break-up story.

Yet it was a beautiful scene that I kept coming back to occasionally.

I especially remember it now because it’s been a decade since that moment.

It was my last day of 8-to-5 work. After that weekend, I worked full-time as a social media manager working from home.

Yes, I have been a virtual professional for ten years now. 

Ten years of roller coaster and wave rides, since I took the risk of leaving the corporate world.

One of my friends asked me in a Facebook post, “What is the one lesson that I learned from a decade of your virtual career?”

I couldn’t narrow it down to just one lesson. Instead, I will answer the question with ten lessons – as if it’s one lesson a year – that I learned from my virtual career. 

I hope you enjoy reading and learn a thing or two from these.

1. Nobody would understand your chosen journey at first – and that is okay.

My family never understood why I chose to take the risk of having a virtual professional career when I was employed. I was already working for the government during the time I decided to resign.

Their point was, “Nasa kama ka na, bakit pa babalik sa banig?” (Why prefer the mat when you’re already in the bed?”)

For them, I was leaving comfort for the unknown.

But I already knew the possibilities. If I decided to let the chance pass, I may never have my turn.

In the end, my family told me to go ahead with my decision because they didn’t want me to live my life without regrets.

It took a few years before they understood that what I do is true and legit. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic came, working at home was the least they worried about. In fact, I got a lot of opportunities to teach people about working from home in 2020. (Yes, I knew Zoom way before it became a verb.)

It’s true, you’re not a hero in your own native town. But if it’s your own home, it strikes a bitter chord. Yet you have to continue because this is your YES to yourself, first and foremost.

You should see how my mother and my brother searched for The Manila Times feature in February 2024. If my Papa were alive, he would have joined the search.

2. Somehow, you are left to fend for yourself. It’s both good and bad.

Well, you’re literally on your own if you work from home. Unless you decide to get a monthly plan at the nearest co-working space. 

Now, you have to take care of every aspect of the business that you didn’t have to worry about before. This includes marketing, sales, finding leads, retaining clients, providing customer service, managing salaries, hiring and firing employees, paying government dues, and more.

It’s good because you are forced to learn that working from home isn’t a hobby. It’s a serious business that if you do well, could lead you to places you never imagined. A CEO? Digital Marketing Agency Director? Co-Founder? Angel Investor? The list is endless.

It’s bad when you continue to stay where you are – the “you” when you started the adventure. Or when you stretch yourself too much. Or if you lose your reasons why you decided to leave your full-time job.

3. You will bring your work ethics – or lack of it – to your virtual career.

Being punctual at work and meetings?I never had tardiness records back in my corporate jobs. I calculated how long it would take me to travel. I am now twenty steps away from my room to my home office. But I still come on time.

Responding to emails quickly, depending on the time zone? I learned it from the logistics company I worked for right after graduation. My marketing director advised me to respond to our Asian counterparts in the morning, reply to emails from Europe after lunch, and prioritize tasks for our American partners before leaving the office.

Creating, revising, or following processes? I learned about process documentation and review because some of the companies I worked for applied for ISO certification.

Becoming a good team member? I have worked with teams since I started working. 

The work ethic, values, and experiences I gained from my corporate job have made my online work easier. It was just a carry on from offline to online. I learned about online work ethics from mentors.

Speaking of mentors…

4. You will need mentors more than ever.

I transitioned to a virtual career confidently because I learned from my mentor, Jomar Hilario.

Since then, I have taken the chance to learn from other mentors – from Brendon Burchard, Dan Kennedy, Perry Belcher, to Jeff Hunter, Mitch Miller, Russell Brunson, and Mark Joyner.

I learned from everyone – even from the dead, like Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, and Jay Conrad Levinson, and more.

I invested in books, seminars, and conferences. 

Remember when I said you’re on your own? Well, if you can take the best parts of what you learned from your mentors and implement them in your online career, then being on your own is worth it. It’s like getting the Sharks and the Dragons to your side.

Choose your mentors carefully. They can make you go in the direction you want to go. Make sure you share the same values and principles. 

And as you share the same values and principles, it’s true that…

5. Yes, you can choose friends. 

I still keep in touch with friends from work (borrowing a line from you, Thor) occasionally.

However, if you looked closely, some of the friends you had at work only got close to you because you only shared work moments.

You needed to finish a task.

You worked under the same boss.

You complained of the same work concerns.

You ride the same bus or jeepney to work, or you have the same work route. 

All superficial, I could bluntly say.

Once you’re out of the organization, you lose touch because you no longer have something in common. 

I am grateful that I had my work friends. I won’t be a better person if not for them. 

However, I knew I had to have new friends.

Growth friends, to be exact.

I am glad I never had concerns about looking for growth friends. 

I learned about virtual careers and connected with others who want to work from home as virtual professionals, too.

I have never been so inspired to keep going than now, thanks to the growth friends that cultivated me in the last decade. I hope I was able to help them grow, too.

Yes, you can choose friends. Just like mentors, choose your friends carefully. 

6. You have all the time in the world – both true and false.

“Oh wow, you own your time.”

That’s one of the comments that I receive every time I tell someone what I do for a living. (They find it creepy when I tell them that I stalk other people on social media.)

I think people associate “owning your time” with the fact that I am “just in the house”. 

To be honest, it’s true that I have time, but not all the time.

My errands, seminars, and meetings with friends still have to be scheduled because my physical planner (yes, I still use those) can be filled up in a week’s time. 

However, with the work that I do, I can manage to slip more breaks – which is helpful to everyone.

I do not have to ask permission to a boss that I would like to be on leave for a few days. Instead, I inform my clients about my vacation, and how I could be contacted. Those are two different scenarios.

7. You will feel alone – so do something about it.

I am an extrovert. One of my mentors, Jomar Hilario, said that I can talk about anything. I agree with that.

I thought I would be an introvert once I worked from home. I am not sure if it has changed. 

However, you can literally feel alone in the journey. With no one to talk to about your work or a challenging task, it could get really lonely.

The good thing is you can always do something about it. You have the power to set your priorities more than ever. When aiming for a successful virtual career, it’s important to establish a conducive environment, develop positive habits, and pursue hobbies that support your goals.

Don’t let work revolve around you. Your home office is not a prison.

8. You can’t force people to do what you’re doing.

I was a strong advocate of working from home online in the first years of experiencing the lifestyle.  

Until I stopped talking about it.

It’s not because I don’t enjoy the work-from-home life anymore. 

I realized I cannot force people to do what I do because everyone’s experience is unique. I just decided to just live it.

If people get inspired and find that this virtual career is right for them, then I did a good job. If not, then it’s fine. 

Me living this kind of lifestyle doesn’t mean it’s the perfect life.

9. What brought you here won’t bring you to your next level.

There was a point in my virtual career life that I felt stuck.

I asked myself, “What am I supposed to be doing that I am not doing now?”

This was the time when all I did was work.

Education has been taking place at work. However, it’s always best to pair it with upskilling (name it – books, seminars, webinars, workshops, etc.).

I haven’t updated myself! That’s why I felt rusty.

My realization: if you want to improve yourself, you need to continue learning. It’s the same point even if you are in an 8-to-5 job. 

Yes, if you choose this kind of life, you should never stop learning.

You should also never be afraid to try new things.

Looking back, I have written two books and did a podcast. 

I have shared conference or seminar stages with people that I look up to. I sometimes pinch myself as to how it happened.

I did all of those things with fear. 

But I did them anyway. 

If I had worked in the corporate world, I wouldn’t have considered those things.

For your goals to become a reality, you need to improve yourself. The other way is you becoming rusty and stuck.

10. It’s not a dead-end job – well, it depends on you.

Here’s the truth: not all my friends who I went with on this virtual career journey are still in the same path.

Some became business owners – as in they have physical stores.

Some people choose to become real estate or insurance agents. Thanks to what they learned in digital marketing, they have the edge.

Some people followed their passions, and they are now earning from it.

Some became parents, they decided to let go of their clients to take care of their family. 

Some were able to create communities because they decided to share their skills with more people.

I am so happy to be surrounded with these kinds of people!

My friends remind me that having a virtual career can be the beginning of creating new paths. 

A virtual career is not a dead-end job.

In summary, here are the ten lessons for a decade of my virtual career:

  1. Nobody would understand your chosen journey at first – and that is okay.
  2. You’re on your own – somehow. It’s both good and bad.
  3. You will bring your work ethics – or lack of it – to your virtual career.
  4. Yes, you can choose friends. 
  5. You will need mentors more than ever.
  6. You have all the time in the world – both true and false.
  7. You will feel alone. So do something about it.
  8. You can’t force people to do what you’re doing.
  9. What brought you here won’t bring you to your next level.
  10. It’s not a dead-end job – well, it depends on you.

Here’s to a decade of an adventure on a path that I never thought I’d take – even in dreams.

As long as God will allow me, I will continue to dream, to serve, and to make things happen. 

Want to take a trip down memory lane? Here are the blogs that I wrote ten years ago:
The start of my crazy
Day 1 to 40 of my First 100 Days
Day 48 to 100 of my First 100 Days

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